As a longtime fan of both Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich, it should come as no surprise that I had an absolute blast with their latest collaboration, Monster Hunter, which is based on the Capcom game series. A rip-roaring sci-fi/fantasy adventure that has some serious Western vibes to it as well, Monster Hunter may have some rough edges, but as a whole, it’s an enjoyable and high-energy adaptation that delivers up some big-time fun.
Monster Hunter’s premise is pretty straightforward: a team of Army Rangers, led by Captain Artemis (Jovovich), find themselves transported via an interdimensional portal to another world riddled with gigantic monstrosities at every turn. The only way home is to battle against these colossal creatures, and if they want to make it back home, they’re going to need the help of a mysterious warrior known only as “The Hunter” (Tony Jaa), who can lead them safely through the monster-filled terrains and back through the portal once again.
While I can’t speak to how faithful this filmic version is to the actual game series, it’s still evident in so many different aspects of Monster Hunter that Anderson has an enormous admiration for this property, and he really allows both the environments and the various creatures shine throughout the film, resulting in some gloriously epic and triumphant visuals. There are several moments in the movie when these monsters get to enjoy their moment in “the spotlight” (so to speak), too, and I love how they all had these personalities to them.
And when it comes to battling monsters, Monster Hunter delivers up a few badass creature clashes that are absolutely thrilling, especially a nightmare-inducing sequence that takes place inside the lair of these oversized spiders that definitely left my pulse racing by the time it all wrapped up. Also, another favorite sequence of mine from the movie was when Artemis and The Hunter are figuring out what weapons and battle gear will suit them best during combat, and those scenes felt like they were straight out of a video game, which was fun to watch, especially as someone who has a weird affinity for watching others play them.
Another highlight of Monster Hunter was the shared chemistry between Jovovich and Jaa that adds a lot of personality to the film. Their characters speak two different languages, so they have to find ways to communicate and build a sense of understanding between them, and the fact that Anderson really strips down the use of dialogue throughout Monster Hunter reminded me of watching some classic Westerns, where the director lets the visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting. But both Jovovich and Jaa give it their all here, and they have some exceptional fight sequences that showed off their respective skill sets as physical performers.
Beyond the leads, Monster Hunter also introduces us to a few other colorful characters in this new world, including the Admiral (played by Ron Perlman, who admittedly doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but he’s a welcome presence all the same) and a flirty oversized pirate kitty who also happens to be the Admiral’s chef. Truth be told, I enjoyed a lot of Monster Hunter, but this tantalizing tabby is my favorite character by far, and I wouldn’t hesitate in watching 10 more movies about this purr-fect purveyor of cuisine.
Even though Monster Hunter is incredibly engaging and exciting, it does have a few rough patches. The opening 20 minutes of the film feel like Anderson was in a huge rush to get to a certain point in the story, and it feels oddly paced, especially in comparison to all that follows. Monster Hunter’s finale almost feels like it was a last-minute addition, too, so it doesn’t land quite as emphatically as the rest of the movie. That being said, none of this was a dealbreaker for me, but I’m sure results will vary with other viewers.
While Monster Hunter might not be the powerhouse IP that Resident Evil was/is, I think the fact that I went into Anderson’s adaption not knowing much about it was the reason I could sit back and enjoy it as much as I did. I had zero expectations or hype about this property, and the main draw for me was getting to see Jovovich kick ass once again, and Monster Hunter did not disappoint in that regard. Plus, it feels like the cinematic cousin to The Ice Pirates at times, and it’s hard for me to dislike any movie that goes that route. I’m sure I’m going to be in the minority when it comes to my opinion on this film, but that’s okay. There’s no denying that Monster Hunter has its share of issues, but I don’t need a movie to be perfect to be perfectly entertaining.
Movie Score: 3/5